The Era of Revolution

audiobook (Unabridged) 1775-1796 · History's Great Speeches

By George Washington

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Six speeches about freedom and revolution from the American, French and Irish revolutions.

The first two speeches are from the American Revolutionary war (1775-1783). Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty or give me death" is recognized even today, two centuries since Henry spoke at the Second Virginia Convention to an audience including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. The speech is credited with providing troops from Virginia for the revolutionary war.

In the Newburgh Address, Washington and implores his army to put their faith in him. A mutiny was proposed because Congress has not paid them as promised. Washington needed to make clear to his generals that there was no option to surrender or turn away to unsettled lands, and that he was with them and on their side in the thick of both war and politics.

Next is William Wilberforce's Abolition Speech to the British parliament in 1789, the apex of a campaign that led to slavery being outlawed across the British Empire.

Speeches from the French revolution then follow. First, there is the reaction from the aristocracy in England; a valediction from Edmund Burke, an MP in the British Parliament, on the beauty of Marie Antoinette and his sadness at her passing.

Four speeches follow by Maximilien de Robespierre, a foundational member of the French Revolution, who laid down the political philosophy of liberty and the moral law over divinity and customary law. The speeches are filled with a passion for direct democracy and the rule of the people, not the elites.

The volume ends with a more measured, but no less impassioned, address by the Irish lawyer and statesman John Curran. It was given in Curran's defence of Archibald Rowan, who was sentenced to transportation to Australia for his treasonous activities fighting for Irish independence. While unsuccessful, this rallying cry for genuine self-determination and free speech captures the heart of the conflicts that defined the era.

The Era of Revolution